Adequate small arms control is essential for reducing conflict, crime and violence. It is a prerequisite for societal stability and sustainable development.
Evidence shows that armed violence impacts women, men, girls and boys differently. The unique, deeply societal characteristics of the small arms issue necessitates a comprehensive mainstreaming of gender perspectives in to all dimensions of small arms control. When gender dimensions are not adequately dealt with in legislative and policy frameworks governing small arms control and regulation, the success and effectiveness of interventions are limited.
Although progress has been made, more must be done to strengthen gender elements in small arms control as agreed in global frameworks such as the Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms and light weapons in all its aspects and the Arms Trade Treaty. Member States are now also reporting on their efforts to take into account gender considerations when implementing the PoA, including the collection of sex-disaggregated data.
Moreover, in recent years, the small arms control agenda has converged with broader international policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has linked small arms control to the peace, security and development agenda, thereby simultaneously providing an interconnected framework of Goals, which goes beyond the security dimension. Goal 16 on peace, security and strong institutions are specifically relevant to small arms control, but the control and regulation of small arms has implications for the realization of several Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration form a strong normative basis for connecting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the small arms control agendas. The launch the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls has further highlighted the need to focus on this issue.
Advancing gender-mainstreaming in small arms control will directly contribute to the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Securing weapons and reducing their circulation removes a frequent choice of weapons for domestic and gender-based violence and femicide. Empowering women and breaking down gender stereotypes surrounding weapons will address the root causes of gender-based violence which include patriarchal systems, gender inequitable attitudes and violent aspects of traditional masculinity.
Gender-mainstreaming will also ensure that attitudes towards weapons, and the impact they have on different groups is better understood and consequently better addressed.
UNODA is a member of UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict and promotes arms control and disarmament efforts within the UN system with the goal to eliminate and prevent sexual violence in conflict.
The United Nations has developed a dedicated module on “Women, men and the gendered nature of SALW” as part of its Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC), which provides practical guidance on gender-mainstreaming small arms control based on the best small-arms expertise.
Between 2019 and 2022, UNODA implemented a global project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda with funding from the European Union. The follow-on project that will run until 2025 has a dedicated set of activities that focus on supporting States to strengthen their capacity for gender-responsive SALW control policies and programmes.